It is a familiar scene, a player is close to setting a record for individual performance and that player – and teammates – become focused on ensuring the record is broken; often to the detriment of overall team performance. We see it happen time and time again in the sporting world.
With her next international goal, Christine Sinclair will pass Mia Hamm into sole possession of second place in the record books, with only Abby Wambach in front of her. Therefore, last Thursday against Guyana in a game where the outcome was never in doubt, only the final scoreline, it would not have been at all surprising to see Sinclair push for that goal or for her teammates to defer to her in that chase.
In fact, the opposite happened. Canada gave a total team performance in beating Guyana 5-0, and Sinclair routinely passed up opportunities to shoot, preferring to set up teammates who were in a better position to score. For her efforts, she was rewarded with two assists in a completely selfless performance. She gets another crack at passing Hamm against Trinidad & Tobago today in another match where Canada is the heavy favorite, but don’t expect to see the selflessness demonstrated against Guyana change.
“I think that’s what they love about her,” said Canada Head Coach John Herdman of Sinclair’s performance against Guyana. “They really do, and that’s what makes her so unique to this team. She’s such a class player and I think we’ve just got more quality around her at the minute where can feed them and get more players on to the score sheet and I know that’s what they love about Christine, she is such a selfless person on and off the pitch.”
Against Guyana, Canada faced a team that opted to pack the center of the pitch which provided fullbacks Josée Belanger and Allysha Chapman plenty of opportunity to maraud forward and launch balls into the box for Sinclair. Neither was surprised by what Sinclair opted to do with that service.
“She’s always team first,” said Chapman yesterday after practice. “She’s a very unselfish player and if somebody has a better opportunity to score than she does, then she’ll lay it off 100% of the time. Just a really good leader and sets a really good example for the other players.”
With Canada bringing such a young team to the tournament, that example is perhaps crucial. When the likes of 16-year old Deanne Rose play alongside a legend like Sinclair, and see her bringing all of the team into play rather than making it all about her, that can only accelerate their development in a positive sense.
The team first mentality then permeates the entire roster. As Belanger notes, “I think we’re really like a team, so it’s not about individual but really the team. So everyone is working hard to make sure we get the result, it’s not about ourselves it’s about the team result.”
Canada vs Trinidad & Tobago – Sunday, February 14 at 3pm CST
The match against Guyana afforded both fullbacks the chance to get well forward and play almost as additional strikers. Following practice yesterday, Chapman talked about having that chance to push forward so aggressively, “Yeah, it’s fun. Most of the teams that we’re gonna play in group stage are going to be dropping in deep blocks, so it’s good practice. I enjoy doing that and it gave us a chance to get our partnerships and work on movement and playing off of each other, so it was a lot of fun.”
Trinidad & Tobago will offer a different challenge. Where Guyana showed little interest in breaking out on the counter, the Women Soca Warriors will look to counter aggressively. Kennya Cordner and Akheela Mollon both have pace to spare and offer strong attacking threats.
“Don’t know if I’ll be getting on the end of any crosses during the game,” said Chapman, in reference to nearly getting on the end of a cross from Sinclair well inside the box against Guyana. “Always have to keep that amber mindset, not always green going forward all the time. Mostly on the opposite side, still going to get forward on the ball side but just a little more awareness of where they are at all times.”
T&T believes they can take points off of Canada coming into this match. They held the United States to a 1-0 score in World Cup qualifying in 2014. Ultimately, this should make for an interesting match and will test Canada in a way that Guyana did not.